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October 29, 2010

A new study has found that Bisphenol-A in a man’s body affects the number and quality of sperm.

Bisphenol A, called BPA, is an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of plastics. Food and drink packaging often contains BPA and this is the primary source of widespread exposure for people in the United States. However, BPA is similar to the female hormone estrogen and researchers believe that it acts as an endocrine disrupter that affects the reproductive systems of men and women.

The study entitled “Urine bisphenol-A (BPA) level in relation to semen quality” and appeared today in Fertility and Sterility a publication by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). Kaiser Permanente performed the study and the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health provided funding.

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente studied factory employees in China exposed to Bisphenol-A on the job. They then tested the men’s urine samples for detectable levels of BPA and compared them to men without such exposure.

“Compared with men without detectable urine BPA, those with detectable urine BPA had more than three times the risk of lowered sperm concentration and lower sperm vitality, more than four times the risk of a lower sperm count, and more than twice the risk of lower sperm motility,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Li, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research in Oakland, CA. He added that urine BPA was not associated with semen volume or abnormal sperm morphology.

This study may be alarming to some men because according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of 2517 urine samples from people six years and older in the U.S.

According to a Kaiser Permanente press release, this study is the third in a series by Dr. Li. The first study, published November 2009 in the Oxford Journals Human Reproduction, found that exposure to high levels of BPA in the workplace increases the risk of reduced sexual function in men. The second study, published May 2010 in the Journal of Andrology, found that increasing BPA levels in urine are associated with worsening male sexual function.

BPA is controversial. The position of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is that they are concerned and supporting reasonable steps to reduce BPA exposure while waiting for additional information.

Legislation is pending that would ban BPA in food and beverage packaging.

The Washington Post reported that the food and beverage industry are devising a strategy to prevent a U.S. ban on BPA.

Meanwhile, consumer groups such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) are calling for a ban of the chemical and proving that while food and beverage packaging is the major route of exposure, it is not the only means. In July 2010, EWG released a report of BPA in register receipts from popular stores.

According to the EWG, 6 billion pounds of BPA are produced worldwide each year.

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